Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Hunger Games - May the odds be ever in your favor.

Rated PG-13 for intense violent thematic material and disturbing images - all involving teens


Starring:  Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth

I remember first seeing The Hunger Games series floating around the book reviewing blogs and most of the reviews were great.  But, the cover and back blurb didn't really catch my attention, so I put them off.

That is until Christmas of 2010 rolled around.  I thought my eleven-year-old daughter might enjoy the books, so I ordered them up for a Christmas gift.

Curiosity got the better of me and I thought I'd just skim the first book to make sure it was appropriate for an eleven-year-old.  I had all three books read within a few days.  I've been wanting to read the series again, but time just hasn't permitted.

I thought it only fair to the readers of this review that I come clean about thoroughly enjoying the books and actually counting the days until the movie release.  This, I believe, colors my opinion.

The main story is about a future where the U.S. has fallen on very hard times and the states no longer exist.  Instead of states we now have a Capitol and twelve districts.  Katniss Everdeen, our heroine, hails from district twelve.

The Capitol, as a way to keep the districts under control, hosts The Hunger Games every year. The Hunger Games are a brutal, fight to the death competition in which 24 tributes strive to be the last one alive. As if the games weren't horrendous enough, the competitors are chosen from the district's children between the ages of twelve and eighteen.

When Primrose, Katniss's twelve-year-old sister, is chosen, Katniss does the only thing she can do to protect her.  She volunteers as district twelve's female tribute.

 After watching several movies based on books over the years I have decided the only way to enjoy a movie made from a book is to watch the movie as if the book did not exist.

I will admit, I wasn't able to do that with this movie because I didn't need to.  However, I may have taken something entirely different away with me from the movie had I not read the books first.

Of course there is a lot left out and a few changes that were made, but I didn't feel that any of that hurt the overall story.  I knew what had happened behind the scenes (because I'd read the books) but I think the movie could be just as enjoyable if you hadn't read the books.

The rating, PG-13, is quite appropriate as there is quite a lot of violence.  The story, after all, is about teenagers being forced to compete to the death. I brought my eleven-year-old daughter to this one and would allow her to watch it again, and again.

This is one I would definitely recommend for older family members. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

In Theaters This Weekend

Rated PG-13 for intense violent thematic material and disturbing images - all involving teens

It appears that movie studios were smart enough not to even attempt a release the same weekend as The Hunger Games, so this is your one (possibly) family movie option this weekend. Although for many, I'm sure the jury is out as to how family friendly this movie really is. We WILL be reviewing The Hunger Games within the next few days, so stay tuned, and feel free to comment with your opinion if you see it before we do!

In the meantime, there were some FUN DVD releases this week and last:

Rated PG

Read our review HERE

Rated PG

Rated PG

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Despicable Me

Rated PG for rude humor and mild action
Starring Steve Carell, Jason Segal, and Russel Brand
Running time: 95 minutes

I originally saw Despicable Me in theaters with my three kids (ages 17, 15, and 12 at the time) when it was released. All three kids and I LOVED it. Since then, I have easily been entertained by this funny and sweet movie another ten to fifteen times. I'm not exaggerating.

A quick recap of the story: Gru (Steve Carell) is an evil villain who is feeling like his career might be on the downswing when someone begins stealing major world monuments and man-made wonders. Determined not to be outdone, he and his cohort, Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) decide they will steal the moon. The problem is, to steal the moon, he needs a shrink ray - the only one of which known to exist, is in the hands of the new villain on the block, Vector (Jason Segal), who has an impenetrable fortress. But Gru is no dummy. He has a plan: adopt three cookie-selling orphans who have a delivery to make at Vector's compound and essentially walk right in with the aid of this innocent girls and his evil cookie robots. The plan works like a dream, but what he doesn't count on is growing to love the three orphan girls. That's right - Gru is a bad guy with a big ol' soft, squishy heart. Will the melting of his tough exterior spoil his ability to steal the moon? You gotta watch and see.

Despicable Me is a winner of a family movie for many reasons, but the biggest is Steve Carell, who plays Gru with what you think might be a Russian accent, and with that magical Steve Carell touch. You never really hate Gru - how can you? He drives a funny car and has strange little minions with names like Dave, Jerry, and Bob. And while you know this story will be predictable, that Gru will succumb to goodness and will exchange his role of evil villain for that of lovable father, it doesn't matter. The script, animation, and voice-over acting are so exceptional, that you're connected from the opening sequence to the very last scene.

The rating is PG for rude humor and mild action. I believe the rude humor cited must be the word "fart," which occurs in a particularly humorous scene when Gru tells this hard-at-hearing Dr. Nefario that he asked for a "dart gun" not a "fart gun." Of course, most kids love the word "fart" so if you're not bothered by it yourself, I think that's the extent of your rude humor. And the "mild action" is nothing disturbing, even to very young children.

Fun, fun, fun, and more fun, is how I would describe Despicable Me, so if you haven't seen it yet, get that DVD, rent it from Netflix, or see if you can find it on cable, because you and your kids won't be disappointed. Especially since they are coming out with a sequel July of 2013.

Reviewed by Karen Cantwell

Find Despicable Me on Netflix

Friday, March 16, 2012

Captain America

Rated PG for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action
Starring Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, and Samuel L. Jackson
Running time: 124 minutes

My son, who is 5 yrs old, and I really enjoy superheroes. Superhero cartoons, superhero action figures, superhero online games, so when a new superhero movie comes out we're both really excited to see it. Of course that's tricky when you have a child so young. Some of the superhero films that come out with are great for kids, others are just too violent, too dark and even though I love them I know my son would never be able to handle them. Just like any movie really, but when superheroes are marketed both to children and adults it's hard to know which ones could possibly be seen by a child.

A whole group of new superhero films had their debuts in 2011, and I've let my son see the ones I thought he could handle, now that we've gone through nearly every film I thought would be kid friendly I started to go back and reevaluate the ones I'd said “no” to, just in case... in case maybe I was wrong. I just watched Captain America again the other day, and now I remember why I had passed on the idea of allowing my 5 yr old to view it. It's mainly due to the amount of violence in the film.

The movie is about Captain America's origin and takes place in a flashback to the 1940s era. Without giving up the entire plot, he's a test subject who gains super powers, a war hero in WWII and takes on his arch enemy the Red Skull. The cast of supporting actors include Hugo Weaving and Tommy Lee Jones, and they are both great in their roles. I imagined this story to be exciting for a child because Captain America seems pretty squeaky clean- an all-American hero, who saves the lives of soldiers and civilians. I imagined even having the opportunity to explain a little bit about WWII to my son... but then the amount of violence basically killed those plans.

Violence in the movie- fist fights, Red Skull murders a old man in cold blood, a murder of a Dr., woman shoots driver in head, a man commits suicide, a disintegration ray used to kill multiple people, Red Skull rips off his face/mask to reveal the skull underneath, and finally a man is chopped to bits when he falls through a propeller blade.

There are also points of time that is spent on strategic war talk which I think would have really bored my son , and some moderate swearing.

For myself I found it to be a pretty enjoyable film that will tie into the May 4 release of the Avengers movie, but not a movie for a 5 yr old.

Reviewed by Dawn McCullough-White

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Season of the Witch - Which Witch is Which?

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, violence and disturbing content
Runtime: 95 min
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman, Stephen Campbell Moore, Claire Foy

I was drawn to this movie because it stars Nicolas Cage and I’m a fan. If I were reviewing this strictly for an adult audience I’d recommend it.  Especially since I was able to watch this one on Netflix direct streaming. 

What I’ve finally boiled it down to is the choice of the parent.  After my initial viewing I wouldn’t let my eleven year old watch it but now that it has set for a few days I might be persuaded to give in. But she would be warned that I think it might be too scary for her. 

We have a rule in our house. Scary movies are not off limits just because they are scary. But if you want to watch it and get scared, don’t come running to me in the middle of the night. 

The movie didn’t have any horrible language that I noticed and no bare bodies or inappropriate behavior in that area, so my only cautions are the potential to cause nightmares and the story does have a religious theme and doesn’t always portray the Christians in a good light.

The opening scene scared me and I’m a little bit older than thirteen. Of course, it’s not a slasher movie and the story was good.  However, the story itself is a bit scary – it wasn’t just the special effects that were frightening.

The movie begins with the hanging of suspected witches. Later that evening a priest returns to read passages over the witches to assure they cannot return from the dead.  This does not turn out so well for the priest.

Then the story moves onto the Crusades and shows a pair of soldiers, Behmen (Nicolas Cage) and Felson (Ron Perlman) going around and waging war in the name of God.  That is, until Nicholas Cage decides this might not be the right thing to do.

The two desert God’s army only to be later captured and put into a dungeon. They are promised freedom if they will help escort a witch accused of causing the Black Plague to a distant monastery. Once there, she is to get a fair trial, which is all Behmen (Nicolas Cage) wants, fairness.

Will the band get the accused witch to the monastery and if they do, will she still get a fair trial?

That is what I expected of the story but it took a bit of a turn near the end and I enjoyed the ride. Just use caution when deciding to allow someone under fifteen to watch this one.

Reviewed by JC Phelps

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lilo & Stitch: Hang Ten with this Disney Favorite

Rated PG for mild sci-fi action
Starring David Sanders, Daveigh Chase, Tia Carrere, David Ogden Stiers, Ving Rhames
Running time: 85 minutes

My daughter and I sat down to enjoy this 2002 Disney flick one rainy afternoon. Her interest piqued after seeing the Stitch character at Disney on Ice a few weeks ago so I surprised her with the DVD after checking it out from the library.

Without giving spoilers, the basic plot is that Stitch (Chris Sanders), a failed genetic experiment from an alien planet that destroys everything it touches, is exiled to an asteroid, but finds himself on one of the islands of Hawai’i instead. He’s captured, and Lilo (Daveigh Chase) and her sister adopt him from the pound where he is taken because the authorities don’t know what the heck to do with him. Lilo, a scrappy, undisciplined and virtual outcast, lives with her sister, Nani (Tia Carrere), after the death of their parents, and well, they’re having a tough time of it. Inevitably. Nani tries to paint a picture of domestic and familial bliss for the social worker (Ving Rhames) who has the one of the best character names ever (Cobra Bubbles), but he’s not fooled. Stitch’s basic nature is destruction so Lilo and Nani suffer greatly when he comes home with them. Granted, they were already suffering before he arrived, and he became a convenient scapegoat to point the finger at, but we’ll just overlook that shall we?

There are some big lessons to learn here on family. The old heartstrings get a workout when foster care looks imminent and when Lilo gets bullied at school then prays for real friends at bedtime later. My daughter asked me to turn off the movie at one point (she said Stitch was a little mean and scary) but persevered through to the end.

Stitch is not your typical cuddly Disney character, but Lilo is quite loveable, and you can’t help but root for her and Nani to get it together and be a true family. From the Elvis karaoke to the cool surfing scenes, the story is fun even for adults. Give it a try next time you’re at the library or adding titles to your queue. And, here’s a direct quote from my five-year-old, “I didn’t like it at first, but then I loved it!” Now, if that doesn’t persuade you…

Reviewed by Beth Balberchak

Friday, March 9, 2012

In Theaters This Weekend

We'll be posting new reviews this weekend for Season of the Witch and The Sound of Music, but today we wanted to let parents know what is releasing in theaters today, Friday, March 9th:

Potential Family Fare:

John Carter - PG-13
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen - PG-13
Thousand Words - PG-13

Sorry, no G or PG releases that I can find!

Adult Fare:

Friends with Kids - R

John Carter is Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action. So far, on IMDb, it is receiving a rating of 6.8 out of 10.

IMDb's description: Transplanted to Mars, a Civil War vet discovers a lush planet inhabited by 12-foot tall barbarians. Finding himself a prisoner of these creatures, he escapes, only to encounter a princess who is in desperate need of a savior.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, starring Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor, is Rated PG-13 for some violence and sexual content, and brief language. I saw the trailer for this movie and it looks like a movie I would really enjoy, but not sure kids will find it entertaining. IMDb's current rates at 7.2 out of 10. I plan to see this one and review for Flixy Mom readers.

IMDb's description: A fisheries expert is approached by a consultant to help realize a sheik's vision of bringing the sport of fly-fishing to the desert and embarks on an upstream journey of faith and fish to prove the impossible possible.

Thousand Words, Starring Eddie Murphy, is Rated PG-13 for sexual situations including dialogue, language and some drug-related humor. So far, this one isn't faring well in early reviews.

IMDb's Description: After stretching the truth on a deal with a spiritual guru, literary agent Jack McCall finds a Bodhi tree on his property. Its appearance holds a valuable lesson on the consequences of every word we speak.

Friends with Kids, starring Kristin Wiig, John Hamm, and Adam Scott (among others), is Rated R for sexual content and language. IMDb reviews are coming in at 6.2 out of 10. I love this cast, but this is definitely an adult-night-out kind of movie. Leave the kids at home!

IMDb's Description: Two best friends decide to have a child together while keeping their relationship platonic, so they can avoid the toll kids can take on romantic relationships.

To find movie times at your local theater, CLICK HERE FOR MOVIETICKETS.COM.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Lorax

Rated PG for mild, brief language
Starring Zac Efron, Ed Helms, Danny DeVito, Taylor Swift
Running Time: 86 minutes

Today we have a special treat at Flixy Mom - three of our reviewers are sharing their opinions of this latest animated film based on the popular Dr. Seuss book.


Ted (Zac Efron), a teenage boy living in the plastic town of Thneedville, has a crush on Audrey. To impress her, he goes in search of a real tree, since none exist in Thneedville. His search leads him to the Once-ler (Ed Helms) who tells Ted the story of The Lorax (Danny DeVito) and why the trees disappeared. It turns out that the Once-ler, in his younger years, got too greedy for his own good, and cut down all of the trees to make money, leaving the landscape dry and the air thin. Disappointed, The Lorax sends the animals in search of a better place to live and leaves a cryptic message for the Once-ler: Unless. After sharing his sad tale to Ted, the Once-ler suddenly realizes after all of these years, what the Lorax meant by, “Unless”: Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing's going to get better. It's not. Still in possession of one last tree seed, the Once-ler gives it to Ted, who cares a whole lot, and . . . well, you can probably guess the rest.

Reviewer, JC Phelps says:

Just getting to this movie was an adventure. As we drove to the theater we saw a bald eagle in the ditch eating from some poor deer that didn’t make it across the road. Then, we stood in line for close to fifteen minutes to find that the showing we wanted to see was sold out and all they had available were 3D tickets for half an hour later.

So, we got to see The Lorax in 3D! This was a new experience for me. It has been years since I even attempted to watch anything in 3D. It never really did much for me except give me a headache but the strides they have made in this technology are amazing and worth the extra money we had to shell out. My four-year-old didn’t want to keep her glasses on until we traded and I realized she’d completely smudged hers and that was why she complained about not being able to see. I ended up wearing the orange kids glasses for the rest of the movie. (Fine by me – orange is my favorite color!)

Dr. Seuss has always been one of my favorites. He’s a little odd, but that’s what makes him fun. His odd little rhymes and strange little creatures hold a very special place in my heart.
The strange little creatures were all present in The Lorax but they cut out most of his cutesy rhymes that make it wholly a Dr. Seuss adventure.

The Lorax was published back in 1971 and is all about the environment. The movie is the same and follows the story of the book very closely. It just shows the story more than tells it. For example, this scene from the book was almost exact in the movie but the words were not there.

“Now all that was left 'neath the bad-smelling sky
was my big empty factory...the Lorax...
and I.
The Lorax said nothing
just gave me a glance.
Just gave me a very sad, sad backward glance.
He lifted himself by the seat of his pants
and I'll never forget the grim look on his face
as he hoisted himself and took leave of this place
through a hole in the smog without leaving a trace
and all that the Lorax left here in this mess was a small pile of rocks with one word.

Because these words weren’t actually spoken in the movie, the word UNLESS printed on the rock seemed a bit vague to me. That was until this little ditty was brought out:

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.”

This was actually spoken and also quoted on screen at the end of the movie.
Being a Dr. Seuss creation, The Lorax is perfect for full family viewing and I strongly recommend going to see this one in 3D! It’s a great experience, even without the wonderfully written rhyming style we know from Dr. Seuss.


Reviewer, Karen Cantwell says:

My 13 year-old daughter saw The Lorax before I did. When I asked her if she enjoyed it, she didn’t hesitate to say that she was disappointed. “It wasn’t very funny and it’s really more for little kids.”

Sadly, I agree. For me, The Lorax just didn’t cut it. Now, maybe four and five year-olds will really like this movie. There were some very young children in the theater when I viewed it, and they didn’t seem bored. I was bored. There were cute teddy bears and some adorable goldfish, but the writing was bland, the characterization flat, the humor even flatter, and the music unmemorable. And I don't enjoy being critical, so that was a hard sentence for me to write.

The environmental message was lost on me since it was presented with the subtlety of an atomic jack hammer, and that’s the really unfortunate part of all of this. Because truly, beyond the environmental issue (an important one, don’t get me wrong) is the universal truth of Dr. Seuss’ line: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing’s going to get better. It’s not.” I don’t feel the simple beauty of what that means came through in this movie. At least it didn’t for me – not in a way that touched my heart the way the book did.

The PG rating is for "mild, brief language." My question here is: REALLY??? In a movie based on a Dr. Seuss book??? REALLY? Why??? Why, Hollywood, why??? Now, I'll admit, I didn't hear and bad language. My daughter says she heard the word "damn" once. Still, I ask: Why???? Was it really necessary? (Karen steps off her soap box and brushes herself off, but steam continues to escape from her ears . . .)

For me, The Lorax wasn’t worth the money, but again, I have older children. Two other reviewers here enjoyed the movie and so did their children, so I may be an anomaly. If you have younger kids, it may well be worth it for a nice day out to the movies (and you may actually like it more than I did), but if your children are past the age of 8, I’d recommend waiting until it’s on cable. In the meantime, go watch Horton Hears a Who! I really LOVED that movie!

Reviewer, Beth Balberchak says:

The Lorax was never my favorite Dr. Seuss book, I’ll admit. Give me Go, Dog, Go or The Cat in the Hat(to read to my daughter, of course) and I’m perfectly happy. I’ll also go on record admitting that some of his books are just downright wordy, and tongue-twisty and hard-to-read aloud! There, I’ve said it. I hope the Classic Children’s Fiction Police don’t come to get me.

That being said, my expectations to see The Lorax-0 (in IMAX 3D, no less) were low. First, I have to gripe about the previews being so dang loud that my daughter was cowering in her seat covering her ears. Why do they have to blare these at us? Do they think to torture us into coming to their theater? Sigh.

The movie started with a song. We love songs, my girl and I, but I started anticipating boredom throughout the film’s opening as we took a ride around the whimsy that is a Dr. Seuss-inspired town. I was quickly proved wrong.

It started out innocently enough with Ted (Zac Efron) trying to impress a girl, Audrey (Taylor Swift) by plotting to find her a real tree. Now, this is hard to come by in Thneedville, a walled city controlled by Mr. O’Hare who greedily sells canned air to the unsuspecting citizens.
Ted escapes the city, and finds the Once-ler who tells the story of the Lorax (Danny DeVito) and his own part in raping and ravaging the forest of truffula trees into the wasteland of destruction it is today.

I think Danny DeVito was perfectly cast as the Lorax. Zac and Taylor did excellent jobs. Betty White is hilarious as Grammy who kicks butt with her cane and bulldozer-driving.

One might want to hate the Once-ler for destroying the beautiful, cotton-candy, sherbet-colored forest and banishing the adorable forest creatures to find a new home. But, he was just trying to make his way in this fortune-seeking world with his thneed invention and ultimately, be accepted by his (idiotic) family as well.

When the last tree goes down, he finally looks around at the apocalyptic-like landscape and sees his mistake. I think he ultimately redeems himself by giving Ted the truffula seed.
I love this movie’s deeper messages about fighting corporate greed and protecting our natural resources despite industrialization. I love how the citizens didn’t need to start up their own Occupy Thneedville to fight Mr. O’Hare. They just planted a tree. I think Theodor Seuss Geisel said it right and was quoted at the end of the movie, “Unless someone like you…cares a whole awful lot…nothing is going to get better…It’s not.”

From the wild and fun 3D ride down the whitewater rapids to the loveable characters, I thought The Loraxwas an enjoyable family movie. My daughter’s quote, “I loved it!” And, I did too. Now, where can I get a thneed?


So, there you go! Two thumbs up and one thumbs down from Flixy Mom.

If you want to see where The Lorax is playing in your area, CLICK HERE FOR MOVIE TICKETS.COM.

And if you enjoy our reviews, please tell other parents!

Best wishes,

The team at

Friday, March 2, 2012


Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, and George Lopez
Rated G
Running time 96 minutes

As a baby, a blue macaw is stolen from Rio de Janeiro by rare bird smugglers, but is rescued by a young girl in America when his cage falls from the truck transporting him. The girl, Linda (Leslie Mann) grows up with her new best friend, Blu (Jesse Eisenberg). When a Brazilian ornithologist arrives on the scene, asking Linda to return Blu to Rio for mating purposes, this truly adorable story really begins.

Jewel (Anne Hathaway) is Blu’s intended mate, but she is only interested in escaping, which she manages to do with Blu in tow. The problem: Blu can’t fly. The adventure revolves around the events of reuniting Blu and Linda safely.

There are bad guys in this story of course, in the form of bird smugglers, but also some really fun sidekicks with some priceless lines. The music and musical numbers are very entertaining as well.

I watched Rio with my thirteen year-old daughter, and couldn’t believe, once the movie got going, that we hadn’t watched it sooner. In fact, since our first viewing, we’ve seen it two more times – we especially enjoy the opening scene when Blu is a baby. The animation is tremendous, and you just want to scoop up little Blu and ruffle his cute baby feathers.

Did we enjoy Rio? Yes! Do we think other families would enjoy Rio? Yes!

So I mentioned this theme of mating – it is handled so vaguely, that I don’t think parents of young children will get questions that they can’t easily answer. There is a bad-guy cockatoo that could scare some younger members of the family (five and under maybe?), but I will recommend Rio for full family viewing. It is sweet, funny (some really fine laugh-out-loud moments), fun, and entirely entertaining.

So truly, if you haven’t seen it yet, and you’re looking for a fun flick for family movie night, try Rio. You won’t be disappointed.

Reviewed by Karen Cantwell